Even in the post-Walkerton era, it appears, many people still take their water safety for granted.
This reality was highlighted by some troublesome statistics revealed at the most recent meeting of Wellington County council, during a presentation on Nov. 30 from Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CAO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
Mercer told council that of about 20,000 private well samples from Wellington County tested between 2011 and 2015, 17.5 per cent showed evidence of bacterial contamination.
“That’s a warning. That means that well water might not be safe to drink,” stated Mercer.
Combine that statistic with the reality that, on average, only 15% of Wellington County residents with private wells have their water tested in any given year, and it illustrates that far too many county residents are unnecessarily rolling the dice on their own health and that of their families.
While incidents of people getting ill from drinking their tap water are rare in this part of the world, it happens. Since seven died and thousands became ill from E. coli poisoning in Walkerton in 2000, municipalities have zealously implemented extensive protocols and practices and installed pricey technology to ensure the safety of their drinking water.
It looks like it’s time for the private sector to catch up.
Walkerton’s tragedy resulted from a perfect storm of flooded farmland, failed equipment, negligence by local water system operators and haphazard provincial privatization of water testing labs. There was a lot that had to go wrong, but it did. The longer private well users leave between testing, the more time there is for trouble to brew.
Information on how to obtain a sample kit, take a sample and return it to the appropriate drop-off spot can be found at: www.wdgpublichealth.ca.
The health unit recommends sampling annually, but two or three times a year would be better.
There are enough risks in life you can’t avoid; might as well take a pass on the optional ones.